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ENGL301: Introduction to Literary Theory

Unit 8: Literary Theories in the New Century and Arguments against Literary Theory   As the field of literary theory continues to advance, a plethora of new critical perspectives has come to the fore in recent years. Today, a number of cutting-edge theories that draw on the principle of the Other, earlier modes of literary theory, and/or related intellectual fields—such as philosophy, psychology, and mathematics—are continuing to shape literary studies. However, the popularization of literary theory throughout the academy over the past forty years also has led to a counter-movement amongst a number of academics who have dismissed the validity of literary theory. The final unit of this course will examine some of the more recently developed literary theories as well as present a few arguments that critique the validity of literary theory.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 11 hours.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 5 hours
☐    Subunit 8.1.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.1.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 8.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3: 2.5 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
  - define and describe the terms ecotheory and ecocriticism; - define and describe trauma theory; - define and describe chaos theory as it pertains to literary criticism; - explain arguments against the applicability of literary theory; and - summarize and describe emerging trends in literary theory.

8.1 New Directions in Literary Theory   8.1.1 Ecocriticism   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “Ecocriticism and Ecotheory”

<span id="cke_bm_555S" style="display: none;"> </span><span
id="cke_bm_556S" style="display: none;"> </span>Link: The Saylor
Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack:
[“Ecocriticism and
Ecotheory”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ENGL301-Eco-Criticism.pdf) (PDF)

   
 Instructions: Read the Saylor Foundation’s overview of ecocriticism
and ecotheory. You can download the Saylor Foundation’s *An
Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack at the top of this
course, or you can download the section titled “Ecocriticism and
Ecotheory” by clicking on the link above. Read that section and
answer the study questions provided at the end of the section.  
    
 Completing this reading should take approximately 1 hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.<span id="cke_bm_556E"
style="display: none;"> </span><span id="cke_bm_555E"
style="display: none;"> </span>
  • Reading: PMLA 121 (2006): Dr. Ursula K. Heise’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism” Link: PMLA 121 (2006): Dr. Ursula K. Heise’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Access Dr. Heise’s webpage of publications. Then click on the journal article titled “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism,” in the second (right-hand) column, to access Dr. Heise’s essay. Read the sections titled “The Emergence of Ecocriticism” and “Realisms: Perception and Representation.”
     
    Following your reading, consider answering the following questions: In what ways does ecocriticism follow suit with other attempts to go beyond modern understandings of subjectivity? How do phenomenological approaches reconfigure our understanding of language, the environment, and literature?
     
    Completing this reading should take approximately 1.5 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.2 Trauma Theory   - Reading: Genders OnLine Journal 42 (2005): D. Stringer’s “Trauma Studies and Faulkner’s Sanctuary” and The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “Trauma Theory”

Link: *Genders OnLine Journal* 42 (2005): D. Stringer’s [“Trauma
Studies and Faulkner’s
Sanctuary”](http://www.genders.org/g42/g42_stringer.html) (HTML) and
The Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory*
Coursepack: [“Trauma
Theory”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ENGL301-Trauma-Theory.pdf) (PDF)  
    
Instructions: Begin with the journal article titled “Trauma Studies
and Faulkner’s Sanctuary.” You can download the Saylor Foundation’s
*An Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack at the top of this
course, or you can download the section titled “Trauma Theory” by
clicking on the link above. Read that section and answer the study
questions provided at the end of the section.  

 Following your reading, consider also answering the following
questions: How does an understanding of trauma help to reveal deeper
levels of meaning in Faulkner’s story? How can the study of trauma
and post-traumatic stress be applied to other works of literature?
Why might the study of trauma have become such a vital part of
literary theory over the past twenty years? How is trauma theory
connected to psychoanalysis? How is trauma theory different from
psychoanalysis?  
    
 Completing these readings should take approximately 1.5 hours.


 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

8.1.3 Chaos Theory   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Chaos Theory as Literary Theory”

Link: The Saylor Foundation’s [“Chaos Theory as Literary
Theory”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ENGL301-Unit-8.1.3-Chaos-Theory-as-Literary-Theory.pdf) (PDF)  
  

Instructions: Read the Saylor Foundation’s “Chaos Theory as Literary
Theory.”  

 Following your reading, consider answering the following questions:
How does an understanding of the scientific concepts of chaos and
complexity help us to develop a deeper understanding of the workings
of complex literary texts? How do various works - especially such
complex works as Shakespeare’s *Hamlet - *illustrate the operations
of chaos? How may historical writers such as Shakespeare have
illustrated the central concepts behind chaos theory in their
literary works and, in essence, anticipate the emergence of chaos
theory several generations before these concepts would be defined by
mathematicians and other scientists?   
    
 Completing this reading should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.2 Against Theory: Arguments Opposed to Theoretical Readings   - Reading: The London Review of Books: Christopher Ricks’s “In Theory;” The Nation: William Deresiewicz’s “The Business of Theory;” and The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: "Arguments against Theory"

Link: *The* *London Review of Books*: Christopher Ricks’s [“In
Theory”](http://www.lrb.co.uk/v03/n07/christopher-ricks/in-theory) (HTML);
*The Nation*: William Deresiewicz’s [“The Business of
Theory”](http://www.thenation.com/article/business-theory) (HTML);
and The Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory*
Coursepack: [“Arguments against
Theory”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ENGL301-Arguments-against-Theory.pdf) (PDF)  
    
Instructions: Read Ricks’s essay and Deresiewicz’s article, followed
by Saylor’s article summarizing arguments against literary theory.
The Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory*
Coursepack may be downloaded at the top of this course, or the
section titled “Arguments against Theory” may be downloaded from the
link above. Read that section and answer the study questions
provided at the end of the section.  

 Following your reading, consider also answering the following
questions: What does Ricks consider to be some of the main
weaknesses behind literary theory? What method of literary criticism
does he advocate for? How does Deresiewicz critique what he
interprets as the “business of theory”? How do Ricks and
Dereisiewicz suggest that theory is detrimental to the study of
literature?  
    
 Completing these readings should take approximately 3.5 hours.


 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

8.3 The Future of Theory   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s An Introduction to Literary Theory Coursepack: “New Frontiers in Literary Theory;” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 33, no. 3-4 (2006): Dr. Andrzej Warminski’s “The Future Past of Literary Theory;” and Style 42, no. 2-3: Dr. Joseph Carroll’s “An Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study”

Link: The Saylor Foundation’s *An Introduction to Literary Theory*
Coursepack: [“New Frontiers in Literary
Theory”](https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ENGL301-New-Frontiers-in-Literary-Theory.pdf) (PDF);
*Canadian Review of Comparative Literature* 33, no. 3-4 (2006): Dr.
Andrzej Warminski’s [“The Future Past of Literary
Theory”](http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/crcl/article/view/10704/8261) (PDF);
and *Style* 42, no. 2-3: Dr. Joseph Carroll’s [“An Evolutionary
Paradigm for Literary
Study”](http://www.engl.niu.edu/ojs/index.php/style/article/view/263/198) (PDF)  
  

Instructions: Access the readings. The Saylor Foundation’s *An
Introduction to Literary Theory* Coursepack may be downloaded at the
top of this course, or the section titled “New Frontiers in Literary
Theory” may be downloaded from the link above. Read that section and
answer the study questions provided at the end of the section. Then,
read pages 311-319 and 331-335 of Dr. Andrzej Warminski’s journal
article titled “The Future Past of Literary Theory” (a PDF version
of the article also is available via the link above). To help us
understand the future of literary theory, Warminski challenges us to
first think about the definition of the genre. Finally, read the
first two sections of Joseph Caroll’s journal article titled “An
Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study” (i.e., the sections titled
“The Current Institutional Position of Literary Darwinism” and
“Literary Darwinism and Cognitive Poetics”).  

 Following your reading, consider answering the following questions:
What does Dr. Warminski suggest are the problems that arise from the
inability of literary theory to create what Warminski describes as a
“meta-language”? What is the “double bind” of literary theory,
according to Dr. Warminski? What is evolutionary literary theory, as
described in Dr. Carroll’s article? What relationship does
evolutionary literary theory have with other disciplines (at least
according to its own tenets)? What do literary Darwinists believe
about people, and how do their beliefs impact their poetics?  
  

Completing these readings should take approximately 2.5 hours.


 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

Final Exam   - Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation’s "ENGL301 Final Exam"

Link: The Saylor Foundation’s [“ENGL301 Final
Exam”](http://school.saylor.org/mod/quiz/view.php?id=1399)  

 Instructions: Complete the final exam for this course. Note that
you must be logged into your Saylor Foundation account in order to
access this exam. If you do not yet have an account, you will be
able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link above.